Warrnambool vote preference dealing heats up

Jacinta Ermacora

Jacinta Ermacora

CANDIDATES who did not give preferences in next month’s local government elections were less likely to get elected, according to Warrnambool councillor Jacinta Ermacora.

Cr Ermacora, who is not standing in the election, gave the prediction as preference dealing between candidates heated up with the finalisation of the huge 25-candidate field on Tuesday.

Cr Ermacora said while primary votes were likely to have the biggest influence on who was elected, preferences were likely to determine the final two or three candidates who became councillors.

Cr Ermacora was the only Warrnambool candidate elected on primary votes in the 2012 Warrnambool council election with the other six people elected needing preferences to get across the line.

She said 2012 candidate Graham Ryan did not give preferences and so got few preferences in return and was not successful.

Mr Ryan had the seventh highest primary vote, above that of Kylie Gaston, who had the ninth highest primary vote but was elected with the help of preferences. 

Cr Ermacora said the importance of giving preferences was highlighted by a Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) report that found 44.8 per cent of people who voted in postal ballots at the 2012 Victorian local government elections did so according to the preferences given by candidates.

Some candidates at the Warrnambool ballot draw, including Allan Wood and Michael McCluskey, said they would not be allocating preferences because they wanted to be independent.

Deakin University politics lecturer Geoff Robinson had a different view to Cr Ermacora, saying the big field of candidates would “make it closer to a first-past-the-post contest” with preferences going “everywhere” rather than the more defined patterns that occurred with smaller fields.

Mr Robinson also said the big field meant the donkey vote, where voters rank their vote in the order in which candidates’ names appear on the ballot paper, would play a part in this election’s outcome.

With the State Upper House’s decision this year not to allow candidates to put their preferences in the ballot packs sent to voters, and with some candidates not giving preferences, some voters will not have information about who to vote for apart from their first choice.

Voters have to place a number against the name of all 25 candidates, so the donkey vote could “play a bit of a role,” Mr Robinson said.   

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